Health benefits of Chocolate
Latin name is Theobroma cacao, which means “Food of the Gods”
Since the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations healing and medicinal benefits of cocoa have been well known. In Central and South American, some civilizations believed these beans were so valuable they used it as a form of currency. The cacao trees only stand about 12-25 feet tall and yield beautiful pods of red, yellow, orange and maroon containing 25-50 of these priceless beans. Cacao grows in tropical areas like Indonesia, Ghana, Nigeria and recently has found its place in the American soils and hearts of Hawaii.
- Cocoa is finely ground cacao beans.
- Cocoa butter is the non-dairy fat naturally occurring in the cacao beans.
- Cocoa liquor is when the whole cacao beans are ground to a liquid. This cocoa liquor naturally consist of 50-60% cocoa butter.
- Chocolate is ground super fine so it melts in your mouth. This can also include other ingredients and then it is usually labeled by the percent of chocolate in it compared to the other ingredients. For example Bakers chocolate is unsweetened 100% and the semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips to put in recipes is a minimum of 36% cocoa beans. There are many name brand chocolate flavored candies that have very little cocoa in them (so little they do not bother putting a percent on them) and are not considered healthy. Dark chocolate reported to have health benefits is considered to be 70% or greater.
Now we know a little about this dark sweet heavenly taste of pure bliss, let talk seriously about why you should indulge a little every now and then. The mineral rich nutritional value of cacao makes it a very tasty source of iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, copper, manganese and also selenium, potassium and zinc. The cocoa butter is a mixture of good for you monosaturated fats like oleic acid and saturated fats like stearic acid and palmitic acid. To top it off it’s a nice balance of carbohydrates, protein and dietary fiber without cholesterol.
So…a little, in moderation, may be beneficial
Chocolate has been deemed by experts as a good antioxidant. Remember the higher cocoa percent the chocolate the higher the antioxidant power. Dark chocolate has actually been shown to have the highest content of polyphenols and flavonoids, greater than that of wine or green tea.
Cacao is a good way to ward off cancer. The American Cancer Association says:
“Given chocolate’s rich supply of flavonoids, researchers have also investigated whether it may play a role in cancer prevention. The studies in cancer prevention are still emerging. A recent review of studies on the cancer protective properties of cocoa concluded that the evidence is limited but suggestive.'”
- Consuming cocoa and its flavonols help enhance mood and combat depression. It also help improve brain functions when under mental exertion. The neurochemical phenylethylamine present in cacao also helps in enhanced feelings of contentment and promotes an aphrodisiac effect.
- Some studies using cacao to improve blood flow to parts of the brain keeping it healthy, reduce memory decline and may prevent or even reduce the nerve damage found in Alzheimer’s disease.
- A little cacao can reduce your risk of stroke! A Canadian study of over forty-four thousand people found you are 22% less likely to suffer a stroke if you consume cacao and 46% of those who have had a stroke reduced their risk 46% by just indulging in chocolate.
- Eating chocolate during pregnancy could even benefit fetal growth and development.
- Improvement in athletic performance.
- Small amount of chocolate daily can lower risk of diabetes.
So next time I enjoy that little piece of chocolately dark sweet melt in your mouth….mmmm. I know that I will be reducing my risk of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, depression and others….while providing some excellent minerals, improving my game, growing healthier babies (we wont start any rumors here) and making my brain sharper with every bite!
This delicious health benefit brought to you by Dr. Shauna Lover DC – mobile chiropractor to the Big Island
Call: (808) 209-1856 or email [email protected]